The project “Amarone Espressioni” we are presenting today brings together our philosophy with the results of a research project that has lasted over 10 years, carried out in collaboration with the “Istituto Sperimentale per la Viticoltura di Conegliano Veneto” and the “Centro Vitivinicolo della Provincia di Verona”. Cantina Valpolicella Negrar has engaged in research and development within its local area over many years, and has many advantages; including its location in the heart of Valpolicella, with vineyards in all the five valleys of the Valpolicella Classico region (Negrar, San Pietro in Cariano, Sant’Ambrogio, Fumane and Marano). This situation gives us the opportunity to investigate and learn about new and wider facets of this landscape, helping to understand the importance of our heritage, to transmit it and add value to its unique characteristics. With this work, the winery intends to go beyond the meaning of “Amarone” as it is understood today, principally characterized by the techniques for drying grapes and by local grape varieties, by emphasizing the distinctive terroirs of this wine, including new and undervalued areas, which help to shape the unique characteristics and future competiveness of our region.
Our aim was to research the differences that affirm the unique identity of Valpolicella, the features that make the wines impossible to replicate elsewhere. This is the “mission” of the Amarone Espressioni.
The intention is not to achieve a ‘wine style” typical of famous winemakers or winemaking techniques, but more a “wine of style” that is a faithful representation of our countryside. In Valpolicella, regional differences are clear-cut and have always existed, so the project we are presenting today highlights this. In part, it was inspired by the remarkable work of Giovanni Battista Perez in the early 900s entitled “The province of Verona and its wines”, which offers an eloquent explanation of the wines of Valpolicella:
«The austere Negrar, the delicate and colorful Valgatara then aromatic Marano, the savoury Fumane, the robust Grolla and San Giorgio, the velvety Arbizzano, the harmony of Novare.»
Perez later identifies markets where the wines were appreciated:
«The products of the Valpolicella (Parona, Arbizzano and Pedemonte, San Pietro in Cariano) are welcomed in the winter in taverns, restaurants and city hotels. Bottles from Marano and Fumane find a place with the wealthy families of Verona. Negrar are regarded highly in Lombardy and Venice. Grolle and San Giorgio in the Tyrol and Austria. San Vito e Sant’Ambrogio go to Switzerland.»
Nowadays it is inevitable to discuss terroir, a concept difficult to translate into Italian, though in Burgundy the term has an almost mystical significance in giving voice to the different characteristics of the soil and the environment of the vine. There are many definitions of the term, but perhaps the most complete is that given by Professor Scienza in 1992:
«Expressing the quality of a wine combines two “types” of quality, the innate and the acquired. The first refers to all factors related to the grape variety and agricultural systems
that affect it, while the second includes all the human factors that influence the production and processing of grapes. Taken together, these two characteristics give rise to the quality perceived by the consumer.»
Most of the research work undertaken by the consortiums representing Italian denominations are about studying zoning within districts that produce significant volumes, often of several hundred square kilometres, and statistical analysis using multiple criteria, thus providing reliable but generalised results. Valpolicella is not a huge area but it is rich in diversity, even in close geographical proximity, and the differences between wines can be subtle and tricky to recognise.
Our objective is not about “zoning” but is to allow our vineyards to produce more expressive wines. We must, in short, re-appropriate the term “typicity”, which has been abused in the past through lack of knowledge of its meaning. Therefore, “typicity” is a key factor in adding value to a wine, though taste is still its armour, provided it keeps its three essential attributes: easily recognizable, consistent and locatable to a geographical origin. As long as the wine has no “typicity”, terroir remains a hypothetical concept at best and at worst the language of illusion, adopted to beat the competitive market, both near and far. It is of course man who reveals the terroir of wine and has spent many years of effort in establishing the existence here or there of a true cru, linked to typical and distinctive flavours found nowhere else.
The wines we are presenting today are the essence, “Espressioni” stronger than any single valley of the Valpolicella Classico region, because they are located in the upper part of each of them: Castelrotto of San Pietro in Cariano, Villa of Negrar, San Rocco of Marano, Mazzurega of Fumane and Monte of Sant’Ambrogio.
To eliminate variables from the trial, we used the same grape varieties in each vineyard and identical winemaking techniques including the same technique of “appassimento” , thereby focusing our search for the essence that distinguishes the fi ve valleys of Valpolicella Classico. We are also working to establish links with the zone of origin, through specific markers such as anthocyanins, polyphenols, malic and tartaric acid, alcohols, particular aromatics and some specific sensory characters.
There are many environmental variables that make each vineyard and the Amarone it produces unique such as the great diversity of bedrock. The valley of San Pietro in Cariano is characterized by alluvial soils, while detritic deposits are typical of Castelrotto. Negrar in the Villa area is noted for limestone nummoliti, Marano, particularly in San Rocco, is where basalts occur and igneous rocks known locally as “Toar” to Fumane to Mazzurega, for limestone while Sant’Ambrogio has marly limestone.
Climatic variables also define specific microclimates: temperature and diurnal fluctuations, plus rainfall and interactions with physical characteristics such as soil depth and slope, chemical composition of soil, exposure, and the altitude above sea level. Even the wind direction and its speed influence the expressive quality of the wine. Each grape variety and clone behaves differently depending on the microclimate, expressing its best in some locations rather than others, and then with man’s intervention, traditional techniques will ensure truly authentic wines.
All these factors are touches of colour that, together, form a unique landscape watercolour, composed from little nuances, aromas and fl avours of Amarone. Discover the Amarone of Valpolicella, constructed of many facets and able to trigger multiple emotions that show us an interpretation of the landscape through its wines.
Within these results, where the landscape is the leading protagonist, we must not forget that another crucial component is the human factor: the people who, thanks to their knowledge, ingenuity and hard work are able to interpret these microcosms, first through a winemaking “expression” that reflects the excellence and diversity of the raw materials and the land, then the “varietal” highlights the vast and varied ampelographic heritage of grapes suited to the land. These are people who pursue excellence, not to mention tradition, who can naturally combine features of ancient and modern, and local with global.
The guideline for our everyday actions and ways of thinking is our awareness that there is no single Amarone but different “expressions” of this important wine. We must identify and interpret the right values and give genuine meaning to the word “typicity” as this is synonymous with authenticity. Our role in representing more than 220 growers is therefore to go beyond that of simple processors and to interpret our terroir.
Today we are familiar with some expressions of Amarone della Valpolicella, but there are many others: just look at our land with new eyes and find out. We will explain some of our research work and knowledge today, but this represents just a small contribution in raising awareness of the great assets, history and culture of which we are witnesses and interpreters, but most just keepers.